Alberta Sovereignty Act

Author of Alberta Should Lead, Not Leave, Randy Royer, stands with all who stand strong for Alberta.

“I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations.”

James Madison

Who Should We Believe on the Sovereignty Act?

How about Alberta’s Highest Court!

Albertans concerned about the legality of Danielle Smith’s signature Sovereignty Act should relax. One need but look at the legal logic and constitutional principles applied in Alberta’s Court of Appeal ruling against the Impact Assessment Act to set your mind at ease. 

The Alberta Sovereignty Act and Danielle Smith’s candidacy for leader of the United Conservative Party deserve support.

The May 10 Alberta Court of Appeal majority opinion on the federal government’s Impact Assessment Act (IAA-former Bill C-69) outlines the legal parameters that could be used in the proposed act. The proposal attracted no shortage of political and media commentary, but the opinions of Alberta’s most senior judiciary — the Court of Appeal of Alberta is, de facto, Alberta’s supreme court — must be part of our considerations.

In its decision the court calls the IAA a “clear and present danger … to the division of powers guaranteed by our Constitution and thus, to Canada itself.” (Clause 6).

It states that “all provincial industries, almost every aspect of a province’s economy … along with a province’s development of its natural resources, would be subject to federal regulation, including an effective federal veto.” (Clause 24).

The court describes the act as confiscation without compensation. It goes on to say that “the federal government would be required to compensate a province for the de facto expropriation of any of [the province’s] natural resources.” (Clause 377).

For the court, the act is an uncertain process, with no timelines, no requirement to provide reasons for denial and a no-questions-asked veto for the federal executive. “Potential investors might well view the IAA as the poster child for “invest in this country at your peril” (Clause 365).

But the court goes further than that. It indirectly offers constitutional support for the Sovereignty Act.

The Sovereignty Act has been much-derided on the idea of not enforcing federal laws that interfere with provincial sovereignties. The court lays out interjurisdictional immunity as a constitutionally acceptable way to do just that. “The doctrine of interjurisdictional immunity {renders} an otherwise valid law {to} be inapplicable to the extent it impairs the “core”…power falling under the jurisdiction of the other level of government” (Clause 248). “Provincial jurisdiction over natural resources is one of the mainstays of provincial power”. (Clause 82).

The court opinion actually indirectly lays out a roadmap for the Alberta Sovereignty Act.

First: demand negotiations on equalizations (referendum of October 2021). The court points out that pursuit of economic prosperity and ‘equalization’ are tied constitutionally. Alberta has lost the former, but remains inappropriately held to the later.

Second: the province is a check and balance on the federal government.Federalism has distinct advantages… efficiency by decentralizing power… accountability to the people…[and] each [level of government] serves as a check on the other.” (Clause 146).

Third: protect provincial sovereignties. The court quotes the principle of Subsidiarity, “…… that law-making and implementation are often best achieved at a level of government that is … closest to the citizens affected and thus most responsive to their needs”. (Clause 149).

The court makes it clear that “… the political realities of our geographically large country whose population is concentrated in certain provinces [are such that] Subsidiarity is a counterbalance to centralism and majoritarianism. Those provinces with the largest populations and most Members of Parliament will often have the most substantial influence on the policies of the federal government.” (Clause 150).

Fourth: protection of the sovereignty of individuals. The federal executive has increased the jeopardy for anyone that proceeds with a project. The court comments that “…the Act makes any senior officer of a corporation… a “party to [an] offence [under the Criminal Code]” (Clause 269). “The result is that…the personal jeopardy [is] greater for senior officers of corporations. …no senior officer of a corporation would ever proceed …” (Clause 270).

Danielle Smith’s proposed Alberta Sovereignty Act is consistent with much of the opinion expressed by some of the highest legal authorities in Alberta. Her proposed Act is not outrageous; it is needed. What is arguably outrageous are political leaders, including other leadership contenders, media commentators and academics, not taking the opinions of our own best legal minds seriously.

Danielle is indeed standing up for Alberta and Canada.

Randy Royer
Author of Alberta Should Lead, Not Leave

All quotes taken from:

In the Court of Appeal of Alberta

Citation: Reference re Impact Assessment Act, 2022 ABCA 165

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